Music venues, nightclubs and pubs, what needs to be done? The UK spiking crisis

In a survey completed by the Freedom of Information Act, the statistics suggest that drink spiking cases in the UK have doubled in the past three years, with 25 victims a week being subjected to this debilitating crime. The Times reported 44 people have reported instances of being spiked by ‘something sharp’ most likely by needle in Nottinghamshire, in just over a one-month period. With numerous victims, majorly women are all sharing their stories of themselves or friends being spiked when at a gig or a night out, Girls Night In movement, a movement in which women, mostly students, are going to boycott clubs over multiple dates nationwide. This leaves the question of what can be done to prevent and stop these awful acts being committed, leaving thousands of people scarred physically, mentally and emotionally. Warning: this piece contains discussion of sexual assault.

What is Drink Spiking?

Put simply, spiking is when someone puts something in someone else’s drink, this could be date rape drugs, alcohol or other substances. This is usually to drug the victim and make them increasingly vulnerable, in most cases this is for theft, sexual assault or as an attempted ‘joke’.

What are date rape drugs?

The most common date rape drug used according to the NHS is alcohol , however Rohypnol (Roofie) and Gamma Hydroxybutyrate (GHB) are also common, acting as an extremely strong sedative. Other recreational drugs such as Ecstasy, LSD, and Ketamine are sometimes used to spike drinks. With the risk of effects such as nausea to heart failure.

How can I/ we spot the symptoms of spiking?

  • Loss of balance
  • Visual impairment
  • Confusion
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Unconsciousness’

What are we told to do in the situation of spiking?

  • Tell a bar manager, bouncer or member of staff
  • Stay with them and keep talking to them
  • Call an ambulance if their condition deteriorates
  • Don’t let them go home alone
  • Don’t let them leave the venue with someone you don’t know or trust
  • If possible, prevent them from drinking more alcohol, as this could lead to serious problems

But how do we stop spiking all together? We can learn the symptoms and how to approach a situation where someone has been spiked, but as many students are reporting in articles and student groups, they feel there is a lack of training and concern on the end of bouncers and those employed to protect customers of clubs, bars and pubs. So again, the question remains, what is the answer?

Boycotting Venues

As a result of the increase in spiking cases across the UK, student Lucy Thompson set up Leeds group Girls Night In, following two of her friends being spiked on a night out, felt venues could do more to handle the situation and prevent this happening. The group, set to boycott clubs and bars in Leeds on Wednesday 27thOctober, has grown nationwide, with the majority of cities opting to do the same, calling for action from venues to tackle spiking. However, this approach has been met with some criticism or further suggestions, with TikToker Libby J Elliot stating…

I work in a bar slash club, places have a target on a weekday or a weekend of like a grand, two grand, five grand, which if they don’t meet they can make back the next day… they’ll just do a deal on shots or underpour their doubles. They’re not going to see the discourse on Instagram, some of them might just think they had a crappy Wednesday and not know that it’s to do with the spiking. So, if you’re able I would suggest emailing any clubs in your area saying you’re losing my business on Wednesday so I want a response on how you’re going to tackle spiking in your venue, and you won’t be getting my business back until I get a response. Also email your MP if you can and ask them what they’re going to do about it”.

Libby J Elliot

Girls Night in Leeds

What Could venues do? What Should venues do?

Searches

The suggestion and debate surrounding making pat downs and searches by bouncers before entering a club mandatory has been diverse. A petition to make searches at nightclubs compulsory has been signed by more than 100,00 people. With Hannah Thompson, who set up the petition stating, “I would much rather have a pat down than a needle in the back”. This has been met with some strong opposition, with worries giving more power to bouncers who appear to be unequipped or unbothered by spiking incidences could in fact make women feel increasingly unsafe and un-listened to. Gwen, a student in Brighton, in an interview for The Tab told them of the time she was spiked, and the bouncer refused to believe her. Gwen was almost walked out of the club by a random man, before her friends thankfully stopped this. “I was completely oblivious to anything that was happening and kept going in and out of consciousness” she said. Others are arguing increased searches and security will only lead to the unjust targeting of POC men.

Drink Protection

This seems to be the most universally accepted step to preventing spiking. Clubs and bars are now starting to provide drinks covers and bottle stoppers free of charge to customers who wish to take one. Petitions have grown asking the UK Government to fund free drink spiking test kits to all clubs, pubs and bars. Yet, what is to be done about the cases we’re seeing of spiking via needles? How do we protect people being the target of something seemingly out of our control?

Training

If giving bouncers more autonomy is not the answer, is the next step to review the training given to door staff and company wide staff? There is question in student forums if venues are providing sufficient enough training to employees to handle and recognise if a customer or fellow staff member has been spiked, and what this training should contain.

A dive into venue statements

Whilst some venues and events companies have stayed quiet on the issue, some have released plans and statements of what they claim to do. With major club event company, Fresh2Death based in Leeds, releasing the following statement via post below.

Other Leeds venues such as The Hifi Club stating they are “extremely concerned by the recent reports of an upsurge in drink spiking” and they are “absolutely committed to ensuring our space is a safe environment for everyone”. Pryzm Leeds claiming they are taking drink spiking “very seriously” and are working closely with Police.

Outside the venue

Away from the management of music and clubbing venues, what can be done to prevent spiking being committed in the first place? Again, the pressure is being put on victims and venues to prevent these crimes being carried through but what can be done to target those who are spiking people? Does the importance lie on education?

Education

The seriousness of being spiked tends to be downplayed. The majority of people not recognising the degree to which this affects the victim, not only physically, but mentally and emotionally. We all should have the right to feel safe and protected on a night out and at a gig. The maximum penalty for spiking holds a 10-year prison sentence, with the sentence lengthened if a sexual assault or robbery has taken place. Does the shock and reality of spiking need to be shown to us throughout school and beyond? Millie Taplin, who had gone on her first night out in Essex, since turning 18 was spiked by a man who had offered her a drink. Taplins mum then shared a video of the victim, stating “she looked possessed”. The parent going on to say “as disturbing as it is, if that saves one girl, just one, it’s worth sharing”. Mille Taplin was “given two drugs, one to paralyse her and one to knock her out”.

Tying it up

It’s fair to say the approach to preventing and stopping the spiking of drinks appears vast and complex, with opinions on solutions being just as vast. A combination of issues needing to be targeted to tackle this crisis head on, including education, venues, and the public working together to ensure this doesn’t happen. With victims seeming to get most of the blame for these situations, we can all agree that it’s vital we start working towards a safer clubbing and gig environment.

All the sources used in this piece are linked below:

Article by Olivia Barnes

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Quite Great is a pr company working with charities, artists, musicians and brands. An honorable trustworthy PR agency since 1996. http://www.quitegreat.co.uk

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Quite Great PR

Quite Great PR

Quite Great is a pr company working with charities, artists, musicians and brands. An honorable trustworthy PR agency since 1996. http://www.quitegreat.co.uk

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